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Utah Rep. Blake Moore explains why budget disputes never reduce the debt – Deseret News

Utah Rep. Blake Moore wants his Republican colleagues to end the civil war over annual spending bills and unite against an enemy that poses a much greater threat to the United States: permanent public programs that drown the country in its own debt burden.

The budget wrangling in Washington, DC, before the 2024 fiscal year appropriations were finally passed six months late, did little to reduce the $34.6 trillion national debt because the main causes of the rising budget deficits were never voted on, Moore said.

“The reason there is so much controversy over this appropriations process is because it is the only thing we vote on,” Moore said. “We do not vote on the major debt drivers of our federal government.”

What drives national debt?

Money-redistribution programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act make up half of the federal budget, but because they are classified as “mandatory,” they are automatically renewed without congressional approval.

Moore, the newly elected vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, sees plenty of political will among his Republican and Democratic colleagues to argue about certain spending provisions, but sees virtually no will to reform the programs that are bankrupting the country even as it nears bankruptcy in the next decade.

During this period, federal spending is expected to rise from $6.4 trillion annually to $10.1 trillion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The increase is expected to come almost entirely from social security, health care programs and interest payments on the debt.

“We're not just fighting over the small part of the pie, but the part of the pie that isn't growing exponentially,” Moore told Deseret News. “The mandatory budget is growing by a tremendously high percentage.”

If Congress doesn't focus on the national debt, the dollar could stop being the money the world wants to invest in, Moore said. And if people stop buying U.S. Treasuries, how will the country continue to finance itself?

“That's where I'm really worried,” Moore said. “Who says that can't happen when we have a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 100 percent?”

“Worse than anything we experienced in World War II”

Unfortunately, Moore, who represents Utah's 1st congressional district, believes it will be more difficult for the nation to get out of debt this time than it was after World War II, when the country's national debt was twice as high as its manufacturing output, or gross domestic product.

“Our biggest budget item after World War II was defense spending, so we were able to reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio more easily because we could control our defense spending,” Moore said. “Today we have a different spending structure than we did in the 1940s, and that's the worrying part.”

Reducing the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is Congress's most important task, Moore said. And one that it has largely neglected – with the exception of temporary spending caps such as those introduced as part of the debt ceiling last summer.

The House Budget Committee, on which Moore sits, recently passed the Fiscal Commission Act, which would force Congress to vote on measures proposed by a bipartisan debt commission of lawmakers and business leaders to cut government spending and increase tax revenue.

But eight months after it was introduced, Moore cannot imagine the bill getting a vote in the House because it is unlikely to pass in the Senate or the White House, where Democrats will not consider it.

“I don’t see any willingness whatsoever from President Biden to solve any of the big problems,” Moore said.

What can Congress do to reduce spending?

What Republicans could continue to do is try to restore “normal order” to the House budget process by giving each budget committee time to draft its spending bills, leaving room for amendments and ensuring that each bill is voted on individually, Moore said.

The Republican majority in the House under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had begun planning the budget process as usual before members of Moore's conference decided to “sabotage him and make it look like he was reneging on that promise,” citing it as a reason for his removal from office, Moore said.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has tried to pick up where McCarthy left off, Moore said. House Republican leadership has drawn up a plan by the end of July to complete all 12 annual appropriations bills so they can be voted on in the House, sent to the Senate and hopefully passed before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The best place to start addressing government spending, Moore says, is to avoid votes on last-minute spending packages cobbled together by legislative leadership. But no matter how much effort is put into voting on annual spending bills, the national debt will continue to rise as long as the bulk of the budget is not up for vote at all.

“Some of my Republican colleagues just want to complain about something and are frustrated with our debt, so they just attack what we're actually voting on. But that's not a piece that can really solve the problem,” Moore said.

Anna Harden

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